Have you ever tried to start a daily meditation practice…and failed?
Perhaps you enthusiastically managed to keep it up for a week—even two—before life got in the way and your shiny new practice got left behind?
Yep, me too. I used to meditate for two hours every single day (a casual habit fueled by several intense meditation retreats). But in recent months, the prospect of runs on the beach at dawn, warm snuggles with my hubby or high-energy surfing expeditions have seemed so much more appealing. Before I knew it, these fun-tivities had replaced my oh-so-sacred sitting practice.
I began to suffer for this lapse. I felt my mindfulness leaking out of me, and I became airy, unfocused and increasingly indecisive. I finally realized that I need to meditate in the same way that I need to brush my teeth: with non-negotiable regularity.
Armed with my new insight, I intentionally got back into a regular rhythm. Today, my meditations are usually 15 to 45 minutes long, every single day. To some, this might seem overly time consuming; to me, it’s time well spent. Instead of diving into DVD marathons or social media sessions, I choose to dive deep into soul-based stillness. And much like my teeth, my spirit feels now consistently more shiny and minty-fresh.
When you’re trying to make meditation a daily habit, it can start feeling like just another item to cross off your to-do list, or yet another thing that you’re just not good at. But this sort of thinking doesn’t serve you, and just makes it harder to practice. Here is a short plan to help you get into the right mind-space for welcoming serenity into your life.
Before you begin to meditate, understand that:
Resistance will arise.
You don’t want to do it, and you’ve got a million excellent reasons why: I’m too busy, too tired, too stressed. Oftentimes, the notions of consistency and discipline evoke our rebellious inner teenager, who does not want to do what she’s told and who’ll throw a prize-winning tantrum to let us know. This is usually the point where our well-intentioned meditation efforts end.
You are free to choose.
Instead of following these unhelpful thought patterns, you can choose to think differently. See yourself as being independent and free in your choice to be a meditator. Convince yourself that you don’t have to meditate. Nobody is forcing you. In fact, you want to. Do you? It’s your choice.
You cannot fail.
It’s easy to feel disheartened when endless thoughts continue to arise during your sessions, despite your best efforts. You can start to feel like a failure, like there’s just no point. But when you look closely at meditation, you see it’s not the practice of learning how to stay present. It’s really the practice of how to return to the present. You can’t fail! If you get caught in a thought, no worries—that happens. Catching this moment with your awareness is the practice. Can you already smell the roses?
You will get instant gratification, you just have to know how to look for it.
When your mind wanders off a hundred times, you have a hundred opportunities to practice mindfully returning your attention to the present moment. Isn’t that absolutely wonderful?!
Now let’s get zen! Find a quiet place to sit and try this:
Meditation in 5 steps:
1. Set a timer for two minutes. Sit comfortably upright (on a cushion, a chair or leaning against a wall).
2. Close your eyes.
3. Bring your focus to your breath. Observe how it enters your nose and exits your nose. Let your mind gently rest on the breath. That’s all you need to do.
4. Now, your mind will naturally begin to roam. Imagine your mind like a child that has just started walking and wants to wander off all the time. Be unconditionally loving, patient and encouraging. Whenever you catch the mind wandering, simply bring your focus back to the present moment and observe your breath. And repeat. (And repeat again.)
5. When your time is up, thank yourself for practicing meditation. Silently say to yourself, “thank you”. This little gesture will build motivation and goodwill for your next sessions.
Do little, reap plenty.
Begin with only one or two short practices a day. A good time to meditate is just after getting up in the morning, when your mind is naturally calm. At this time of day, it’s also easier to avoid an inner debate as to whether or not you should sit down and practice, and instead, just do it! I usually get up, make myself a cup of apple cider vinegar or tea, sit down and do it.
Bonus tip for busy people.
Tiny windows for quiet contemplation can be found everywhere throughout the day. For example: stay a minute longer on the toilet or in your car before getting out, and use this time to meditate.
By combining a little discipline with a lot of self-compassion, your meditation practice will grow and flourish. Those few minutes spent in solitude can grow into some of the most rewarding moments of your day. Getting serious about serenity is oh-so-worth it!
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Editor: Dana Gornall